Deterrence is widely accepted within America’s body politic as a prime objective of our national- security structure. That is not to say, however, that it is a widely understood concept. Indeed, commentary on the topic is often either over-expansive or oversimplified. The truth about deterrence is this: Of all the forces the nation needs, only those capable of taking the right action at the right time are effectively deterrent. The deterrent force is the warfighting force that keeps the peace. It is, therefore, a critical force.
It is one thing to recognize a general need for deterrence, but it is not useful to discuss it in vague terms. Today there is great pressure on government funding, and the future can be expected to offer stress on national security in many and varied ways. Now is the time to reassess the costs of all programs versus the needs of our society. Accordingly, every aspect of the national-security structure should be examined closely. In any such examination a firm understanding of the nature of deterrence—and the hardware and policy requirements necessary for its clear use—is fundamental.